The Tatters of Wonder Woman

It’s easy to forget the high quality of DC’s Wonder Woman series, especially when the creative team make each issue fit so seamlessly next to the last. While many of DC’s titles have managed to keep a high standard – Animal Man, Batman, Swamp Thing all spring to mind – it is only Wonder Woman which has made every single issue a worthwhile, intelligent, and witty read. Writer Brian Azzarello has managed to take the single most impossible job in comics and take it apart, offering a deconstructive, tense take on the main character and making her into a notable female character.

Wonder Woman has always struggled to be more than her relevance, by which I mean she is the most prominent female character in comic-books but that is also her most defining characteristic. She exists, but she doesn’t have an existence, if that makes sense. Everybody knows her image, but many would struggle to name her personality traits or motivations. She’s just a female character, a warrior woman, and she does something with a whip.

This reboot has offered DC a chance to take the character and change her round, see if they can’t fix some internal difficulties. While writers like Greg Rucka, Gail Simone and Phil Jimenez all found some measure of success with Diana, she’s still paled in significance next to not just Superman and Batman, but other great female characters like Power Girl, Huntress, Batwoman and Black Canary. Ostensibly Wonder Woman is the icon, but it’s proved very difficult to explain just why. Azzarello opts not to even bother, and instead takes the approach of breaking down everything she believes in, TO HER FACE. Diana has to watch as the myths and legends surrounding her are brought down painfully around her, and she’s being forced to accept the reality of her life. She was not ‘born of clay’, her fellow Amazons are not ‘divinely chosen’ to live together, and her fellow Gods are real, gritty people who live amongst humanity.

Instead of being presented with an all-powerful Goddess (which interestingly, is how Marvel choose to present their most famous female character – Storm – nowadays, to her detriment also) we’re being shown a lot of iconography which is false, myths which don’t hold up, and fame which isn’t earned. In short, Azzarello and co-writer/artist Cliff Chiang are doing to Diana in the comic what no other writer has tried to do to Wonder Woman as a series: make it real. No secret agencies or invisible jets; just a woman who doesn’t know where to go with her life and a group of allies who want to show her. Every month, the Wonder Woman comic takes a little bit more of the old continuity, rips it up, and hangs the tatters over Diana’s shoulders. She’s a part of tradition, but she no longer exists within it. She’s not hamstrung by her own fame, but instead being asked to live up to it, develop, grow into somebody who deserves the plaudits. And it’s absolutely fascinating.
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